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Trump Embraces the Missile Defense Boondoggle

Today Trump will embrace [1] a huge expansion of the boondoggle that is missile defense:

The Trump administration is seeking to expand the scope and sophistication of American missile defenses on a scale not seen since President Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” initiative in a new strategy that President Trump plans to roll out personally on Thursday alongside military leaders at the Pentagon.

Throwing more money at missile defense systems is both a very expensive waste of resources and a highly destabilizing action that will spur other nuclear-armed states to expand their arsenals. Combined with the expected U.S. withdrawal from the INF Treaty and the impending expiration of New START, we could be looking at the start of a full-blown arms race with Russia and China in just a few years. The worst part is that the technology doesn’t work as advertised and isn’t going to work in the future, and the only ones to benefit from more spending on missile defense are the defense contractors that build the useless systems. The report continues:

The Pentagon wants to put a constellation of sensors above the Earth that can track missiles as they launch, and is recommending a study of weapons that can shoot down missiles from space. The review will also note that further development of high-energy lasers could give the United States a cost-effective way to destroy missiles shortly after their launch in what is known as “boost phase.”

Arms control experts have been quick to dismiss these ideas as unrealistic:

An article [5] from last fall by Laura Grego and David Wright explained why space-based missile defense would be both extremely costly and ineffective:

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As a number of technical studies have shown, however, such a system would be incredibly complex, requiring hundreds or thousands of orbiting interceptors to defend against even a handful of missiles. It also would be incredibly expensive. A congressionally mandated study in 2012 by the National Academies of Science and Engineering concluded that a space-based boost-phase missile defense would cost 10 times more than any terrestrial alternative.

A system with an “austere,” or simple, capability to counter a few North Korean missiles, the study estimated, would cost at least $300 billion.
But even that amount of money would not produce an effective defense, partly because the interceptor constellation would be vulnerable to anti-satellite weapons and to being overwhelmed by a salvo of missile launches.

Expanding missile defenses would just mean adding more unnecessary spending to an already bloated Pentagon budget, and it would actually result in less security for the U.S. and less stability in our relations with the other nuclear-armed powers.

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10 Comments To "Trump Embraces the Missile Defense Boondoggle"

#1 Comment By Christian Chuba On January 17, 2019 @ 7:32 am

The entire point is that the Neocons who started Cold War 2 (yes it was entirely our fault) now want to win it by bankrupting Russia in an arms race. The problem is that anyone who watched Oliver Stone’s interview can see that Putin thoroughly understands this and won’t follow the script.

We are on the wrong side of the equation. We have the larger more expensive military that constantly has to be refurbished with even more expensive equipment and satellite nations to support.

This is why it was important for the Neocons to maneuver the U.S. out of any and all arms control agreements. Funny, when the ABM treaty was scrapped GWB said it was only targeted at Iran and N. Korea.

#2 Comment By Personanongrata On January 17, 2019 @ 8:28 am

Trump Embraces the Missile Defense Boondoggle

The criminals within the US government will never let a lack of fiscal resources be an obstacle to their delusions of full spectrum dominance (ie enriching themselves).

Seventy two years after the national security state was wrought into existence via Harry S Truman’s signature the siphoning off of hundreds of trillions of US dollars in wealth/productivity (in 2018 US dollars) for war (ie death) has lead the nation to the precipice of economic/spiritual ruin.

We can/must cast-off the repressive yoke of a criminal death worshiping US government and reclaim the future for ourselves and our children.

Peaceful non-violent non-cooperation with the US government and it’s benefactors whenever wherever possible can be accomplished on an individual level and is the first step forward in restoring the atrophied blessings of liberty that have been stolen via official subterfuge in piecemeal fashion over decades – so as not to alert the frogs (ie US citizens) to the fact that the water of US government tyranny was at a rapid boil.

#3 Comment By Douglas Macgregor On January 17, 2019 @ 11:34 am

In space, lasers perform better. However, given that a nuclear warhead is designed to survive the thousands of degrees of heat during atmospheric reentry what makes the advocates for this spending think that a space-based laser (assuming it can be powered) could have any impact on the warheads? The point is that even if the laser is in the megawatt range of power, the laser will not destroy the warheads.

#4 Comment By Sid Finster On January 17, 2019 @ 11:57 am

So much for Trump wanting to tone down the arms race. Trump is stupid, weak and easily distracted with shiny objects.

Oh look! A squirrel!

#5 Comment By mark_be On January 17, 2019 @ 12:34 pm

I don’t often disagree with you, Mr. Larison, but here I must object. We all know that comprehensive ballistic missile defense is stupid, will never work as advertised, and will actually make the world less safe because one country will start feeling impervious to nuclear retaliation. Yet, almost 40 years into the program, we have reached a point where some ballistic missiles can be intercepted some of the time. There is no doubt in my mind that, given enough funds, missile defense will reach a point where most ballistic missiles can be intercepted most of the time. Iron Dome works. Star Wars, in the end, will work too.

Obviously, “given enough funds” either far exceeds the carrying capacity of the United States, or must be spread out over so many years that it essentially becomes an academic exercise. Still, Trump can get off a few tweets about his shiny new thing, and these days, that’s all that matters. I wouldn’t actually be surprised if the whole thing quietly gets put into the fridge again some months from now.

#6 Comment By John_M On January 17, 2019 @ 1:07 pm

I am an old fart and did some work in this space more than 30 years ago, working with other members of the American Physical Society. Even then you could not build a case that missile defense (interceptors – even with nuclear warheads, lasers, or particle beams) would be either efficient enough or robust enough to deal with an attack from a technologically competent opponent – and that is in an arena where treaties might limit the number of attacking weapons. In unlimited regimes, saturation attacks always succeed.

So it was recognized that missile defense would be relatively ineffective against Russian – and eventually Chinese attack. So the proponents sold it as a tool against less capable opponents – at least for a decade or two. But the Russians were not convinced that their decoys and countermeasures were adequate and have developed / are developing hypersonic maneuvering vehicles to counter the missile defense technology – and the Chinese are right up there as well.

We have spent a lot of money – and accomplished very little beyond forcing the development of hypersonic technology – which we are now scrambling to develop as well.

We have a case of mission creep here with political leaders believing that the missile defense technology we have can actually protect the country against Russian or Chinese attack – something that was not part of the system requirements.

Stupid. Stupid. Unfortunately not surprising.

#7 Comment By cdugga On January 17, 2019 @ 5:42 pm

If you have a rifle and the enemy has spent the fortune necessary to build a gun to intercept your rifle’s bullet, what should you do? Missile defense has always been a boondoggle in the strategic or superpower sense. Ray gun started the deficits don’t matter borrowing specifically to build up our military with its main purpose being to secure oil reserves for our fossil fuel economy and the biggest single user of oil, our MIC. All the enemy has to do is make more cheaply produced missiles to overcome the expensive magic missile defense. The tech likely transfers to ship defense, which most likely is the main impetus for continued funding. However, just more cheaply produced missiles will still overwhelm any extremely expensive defense systems.
We have invested trillions in our projection of power MIC. Our navy is what anybody would call an extremely expensive target rich environment. So, a choice must be made. We either spend more and more to protect projection of power with the projection of power’s main purpose being securing fossil fuel reserves, which hilariously coincide with the navy’s massive requirement for fossil fuels; or, we move towards a green economy not dependent on any sort of projection of power fossil fuel MIC economy. Anybody hazard a guess about which political party wants to maintain the borrow from the future economy for projection of power versus which party wants to leave that status quo for the green economy of alternative and sustainable energy? Yepper, it is just that simple.

#8 Comment By Cornel C Lencar On January 17, 2019 @ 8:40 pm

I see a big problem here, which I am sure the Russians and the Chinese, and probably others caught up immediately.

What if this space defense system is in fact intended to be an offensive system? Having missiles with nuclear tips, hovering at several hundred km above will allow one to do the first strike and then monitor for any signals where retaliatory strike might come, which will be attacked by spaced based missiles coming down on the victim in matters of minutes…

It sounds appealing but it is stupid and Russians have probably thought about this, hence the nuclear submarines, the strategic bombers, the Poseidon system… They have made sure that they will always have the ability to retaliate after a first strike, or what would appear to be a first strike. MAD is well and truly challenged now by the US with its posturing, not with its capabilities.

While in the 1980s people were really fretting about nuclear Megiddo and politicians responded, now large parts of the US media are mum, in fact complicit at this silence – thank you Daniel, thank you TAC for your stance.

#9 Comment By gross receipts On January 18, 2019 @ 12:01 am

He’s probably preparing the way for another ripoff of advanced US military equipment by Israel. A lot of the expensive junk we developed ended up being given to Israel for free. Missile defense has been an Israeli bugbear for some time.

They want us to develop stuff they need (whether we need it or not) and that they can then steal and sell to our competitors, like China or Russia. They’ve been doing it for decades.

#10 Comment By Cornel Lencar On January 18, 2019 @ 11:36 am

Dr. Strangelove describes a theory of survival in the face of MAD gone awry, where the most genetically fit humans (along with their political and military leaders, of course) go underground into a giant mine shaft to wait out the apocalypse and then repopulate the Earth.

“General “Buck” Turgidson: Doctor, you mentioned the ratio of ten women to each man. Now, wouldn’t that necessitate the abandonment of the so-called monogamous sexual relationship, I mean, as far as men were concerned?

Dr. Strangelove: Regrettably, yes. But it is, you know, a sacrifice required for the future of the human race. I hasten to add that since each man will be required to do prodigious… service along these lines, the women will have to be selected for their sexual characteristics which will have to be of a highly stimulating nature.

Ambassador de Sadesky: I must confess, you have an astonishingly good idea there, Doctor.”

Nothing like a good porn fantasy to change the reality of nuclear annihilation from fear and loathing to “actually, doomsday machines can be fun and rewarding”. Yes, mistakes were made, but when all is said and done the world will be a better place for our having blown it up. Don’t you feel better already?